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5 government execs charged for escape of Korean fugitive

MANILA, Philippines — Four immigration officers and a transportation officer are facing criminal and administrative cases, including bribery, after they were held liable for the departure of a Korean fugitive from the country last March 19.

A fact-finding body of the Department of Justice (DOJ) made the recommendation to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last June 4 after it wrapped up its investigation of how Korean fugitive Park Sungjun was able to slip out of the country via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 2 in Parañaque City.

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President Aquino had called for the investigation himself, irked at how Park was able to get away despite being blacklisted and in the immigration watch list.

Recommended to be charged were Augustus Ceasar Morales, immigration officer and supervisor at the airport arrival area; Ma. Roselle Sacendoncillo, acting immigration officer; Fernando Pedrajas of the Department of Transportation and Communications-Office of Transportation Security; and immigration lawyers Arvin Cesar Santos and Jing Oliver A. Balina.

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Morales, Sacendoncillo and Pedrajas were recommended to be charged for bribery; persuading or including another public officer to commit an offense (violation of Section 3(a) of Rep. Act 3019 or Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); solicitation or acceptance of gifts and for grave misconduct (violation of section 7(d) of Rep. Act 6713or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). All these arose from the findings that Morales instructed Sacendoncillo to clear Park for departure despite knowing the Korean was in the immigration blacklist. Morales had also handed P10,000 cash to Sacendoncillo. For his part, Pedrajas was the one who escorted Park to the immigration departure counter even if he was already off duty.

Immigration lawyers Santos, head of the Bureau of Immigration’s Law and Investigative Division, and Balina were recommended to be charged for knowingly approving or granting any license or permit to a person not legally entitled to it (violation of section 3(j) of Rep.Act 3019), as well as for gross neglect of duty.

Santos and Balina were held liable for recommending the extension of Park’s visa application when only a month before that, they were aware through documents coursed through their office that the Korean national was put on the immigration watch list on the request of the Korean embassy.

Park was wanted then in his country in connection with a $25-million investment scam.

The Korean national was apprehended by Korean authorities though when his Manila flight landed in Seoul.

The fact-finding team, meanwhile, cleared immigration officer Anna Primerose Mati of any involvement in the case, and was recommended to be taken out of the lookout list. Mati was seen in the CCTV footage in the airport to have been in the counter of Sacendoncillo but she told investigators she did not process Park’s documents and had asked for some snacks from Sacendoncillo.

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TAGS: Bribery, Bureau of Immigration, DoJ, Foreign Nationals, Fugitives, Global Nation, Graft and corruption, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Park Sungjun
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